Drawing for Santa by my son

This year Christmas sneaked up on me, ambushed me in the middle of trying to feel a bit more relaxed about my work, and completely everhauled me in a matter of days. I can’t really explain how it all happened, but suddenly it was alreayd the 2nd advent Sunday, my kids were complaining about a lack of christmas baking and M. was sneaking out for an intensive work week in Barcelona, leaving me to make sure all Christmas presents were bought and eventually wrapped, biscuits baked, kids with the correct Christmas outfit in school – it’s amazing how many different Christmas events they manage to fit into a week with a different arrangement for dressing (uniform in the morning, party outfit in the morning; school uniform with christmas sweater all day; christmas sweater or headgear for quick add-on during lunch…).

My table at the Christmas Party at Backlit Galleries

I quit participating in craft markets a long time ago (a decision I’ll have to re-evaluate for the coming year), but I decided to join in at two mini fairs: one at Backlit galleries, for which I decided to bring printed Christmas cards, and I let myself be persuaded to bring cards and some pieces of art to the Christmas fair at the German language school where I was teaching.

First lot of cards: dowloaded a lot of flags, added my own distress pattern, then print this car on it by hand: voilá, travel themed greeting cards.

And so my December was suddently full of delightful – and busy printing. Some of those prints were robots. But I failed to get the full number of 12 full. Nevertheless the challenge was fun, and I might extent it to January.

For now I would like to show you the different printing I made and finished in the last couple of weeks.

my pupil’s booth at the Christmas market at the German Academy Leicester

First up was the printing session with my 7-8 year old pupils at the German academy. They made wonderful Christmas cards and giftwrap together, using different alternative printing plates and – which made things hard – child safe inks and paints.

After the first printing session at school, I started printing my own Christmas cards at home. I decided to finally try out my printing screens. I bought screens, photo emulsion, as well as drawing fluid and screen filler already two years ago, and then was always afraid to actually try it out, because I wasn’t sure I could successfully reclaim my screens afterwards. Finally I overcame my anxiety: What good does it do not to use something out of fear of not being able to use it again anyway?

It was surprisingly easy: I made a drawing first on a piece of paper which I then placed underneath the screen I was going to use.I propper up the screen slightly, and then, with a brush, put my drawing on the screen with the drawing fluid. The fluid is slightly sticky, it’s a bit like drawing with liquid glue, but easy enough. When this is completely dry, the screen filler is dragged across the screen, and when this is dry, you can simply wash out the drawing fluid with some warm water. – And the screen is then ready to pull the first prints. I rather liked the quality of the image produced, and can well imagine to experiment a bit more with this.

Reclaiming the screen was also easier than I feared it would be: I used a filler that can be removed with a mild abrasive household cleaner. After about 15 minutes of scrubbing, the screen looked good as new.

printing with an “easy printing plate”

The other printing plate I experimented with this year was a so called “easy printing plate”. This plate consists of a foam, mounted onto a piece of card. You can then either score this with a pen, and then the marked line won’t ink up. I used this technique with the kids in school (see above the card with hearts). But with a paper scalpel it is also easy to cut and pul the foam and then just unk up what remains. – I am rather pleased with the cat print I made in this way.

Cat print

For the rest I stuck to familiar block prints, carving some text, more cats, paper crowns, and a more traditional Christmas card. Here are all my different cards in one image:

And with the cats prints still slightly wet, I then set off to the first Christmas evening at Backlit. At the table directly beside me, someone had set up an Adana and offered self-printed (letterpress) Christmas cards. I was hit by an extreme case of press-envy.
I firmly believe in not buying anything for myself from October onwards. What I don’t get for Christmas, I wish for my birthday in January, and if there’s still something I want after that, I have Christmas or birthday money to spend it on. However, this year, I couldn’t resist the urge: I knew that there was an unused Adana sitting in the basement at the writer’s studio, and I knew whose it was. A few days later, I brought it home together with a lot of type:

Bringing home my first letterpress

Unfortunately a lot of the type is in disorder, and I’ll probably spend the next year sorting type. – If I can finish in that time! I am also looking forward to using if for printing lino. The format is good for printing cards, too. So maybe I’ll have to produce more cards in the coming year.

The Adana sitting in my studio

What are your Christmas gifts – self-gifted or received by others? And what are your plans for the next year?